Anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus tears in children and
adolescents active in sports have increased dramatically during the past 12
years, according to a presentation at the American Academy of Pediatric
National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.
“Our study confirmed our hypothesis that, at least at our large
academic pediatric hospital, knee injuries are an ever-growing problem for
children and adolescents involved in sports,” J. Todd Lawrence, MD, PhD, a
study investigator and orthopedic surgeon, stated in a press release.
A dramatic increase
Researchers examined patients aged 18 years or younger admitted to The
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who were treated for anterior cruciate
ligament (ACL) and meniscus tears from 1999 to 2011, comparing them with tibial
spine fractures within the same period.
The results showed 914 ACL and 966 meniscus tears were identified, a
400% increase from 1999 results. Researchers identified 155 tibial spine
fractures that increased at a rate of 1.07 per year. During the same period,
ACL and meniscus tears increased at rate of 11.35 and 13.95 per year,
Lawrence said the rising incidence of these injuries suggests “that
injury patterns are changing and that the true incidence of these injuries is
increasing,” noting that tibial spine fractures were once thought of as
the pediatric equivilent of an ACL tear.
Prevention is key
Surgeons have gained better awareness of the signs and symptoms of these
injuries, which may have contributed to the increase, according to the release.
In addition to children joining sports teams at younger ages, researchers said
greater participation in year-round sports and advances in imaging technology
are possible indicators for the increase in the injury rate. Many children will
also return to high-level sports after a repair, putting them at greater risk
Lawrence said the implications of ACL and meniscus tears in children and
adolescents are much greater than in adults.
Because the reconstructive process is lengthy, complex and could
potentially impair growth in children, Lawrence suggested parents and coaches
involve children in sports injury prevention programs to help reduce the
incidence of ACL and meniscus tears.
“While we are never going to prevent all injuries, there is good
evidence, particularly for some sports like soccer, that sports injury
prevention programs can go a long way towards reducing them,” Lawrence
For more information:
Sampson NR, Beck NA, Baldwin KD, et al. Knee injuries in children
and adolescents: has there been an increase in ACL and meniscus tears in recent
years? Presented at the 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference
and Exhibition. Oct. 15-18. Boston.